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Crawford leads Kentucky in season opener vs. Miami

Nov 16, 2006 - 2:22 AM LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- A strong performance by Joe Crawford prevented Kentucky from looking red-faced against the Miami RedHawks.

Crawford scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half as the No. 22 Wildcats overcame an early deficit and withstood a second-half rally for a 57-46 victory over the RedHawks in their season opener.

Randolph Morris had 12 points and 10 rebounds and freshman Perry Stevenson had seven blocks for Kentucky (1-0), which was coming off a rough 22-13 season in which it was knocked out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"You can't tell who is going to win the national championship at this point because it is such a long season," Morris said. "It all depends on how you respond to your opponents and how you respond in March. It's good to get the first win under our belts, but it may not have a big outcome on how we finish at the end."

The Wildcats did not come out strong in their opener, as Miami (0-2) jumped to an 18-8 lead 11 minutes in on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers and a dunk by Nathan Peavy. But Kentucky regrouped, picked up the defensive intensity and took a 31-27 advantage into the locker room.

"I was surprised. Especially in a home opener," Kentucky forward Bobby Perry said. "It shows that they have some players and they came ready to play. Our shots weren't falling at the beginning. We just had to find our stroke. Thank goodness for Joe (Crawford). He really kept us in the game and played wonderful tonight."

Crawford led the surge with a jumper and a pair of 3-pointers, including one that gave the Wildcats a 30-27 lead with 1:05 left. Perry hit two shots from the arc and Ramel Bradley scored six points.

"They just became Kentucky, they just started playing better," Miami coach Charlie Coles said. "We made some mistakes and it was almost like our guys were like 'hey, we have a 10 point lead.' We made some mistakes and I think those hurt us because they went down there and scored off those mistakes."

Kentucky immediately upped its advantage to 37-27 just three minutes into the second half on two layups by Morris and another by Stevenson. But the RedHawks fought back behind Peavy, who hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 47-46 with 4:49 left.

Kentucky again had an answer, closing the game on a 10-0 run. Bradley hit a tough fallaway jumper from just right of the foul line and Morris hit two free throws then a short jumper in the lane for a 53-46 edge with 2:45 left. Crawford hit two free throws and Bradley capped the scoring with a layup.

Kentucky forced 16 turnovers and held Miami to 4-of-25 shooting in the second half. Overall, the club shot 31 percent (15-of-48).

"I thought the Kentucky defense was important," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "Stepping up and holding them to 16 percent in the second half was what we needed to do because we weren't scoring very well. We weren't doing a great job of getting to the basket and we were in foul trouble.

"I was impressed with the way our guys raised their level of defensive intensity because (Miami) was beating us on the boards in the second half."

Bradley finished with 12 points and five assists in his first career start at point guard, but he committed six turnovers.

We ended up having 12 turnovers and Ramel had six of those 12 turnovers that's something we can't have from our point guard.

"I thought we were very stagnant," Smith said. "We had a lot of standing around and not a whole lot of movement on offense.

"It's my first game starting. It's a long season," Bradley said. "There are a lot of things you need to know when you're playing the one (point guard). It's a learning process, and I'll continue to work on and get better and improve."

Peavy, who was 9-of-10 from the line, finished with 17 points.

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